BBAC Approves Flags and Facade Concept on Newbury St., Several Cell Phone Antennas

The Back Bay Architectural Commission (BBAC) heard several proposals at their Aug. 14 meeting, ranging from flags on Newbury Street to cell phone antennas on light poles in the district.

28 Newbury Street—Cartier

A representative from architecture firm Gensler came before the BBAC with a proposal to add two flag poles with flags above the existing light fixtures on the Cartier facade on Newbury Street. This proposal is a timely one, as it comes in the midst of a BBAC subcommittee decision to amend the signage guidelines for the district.

Currently, the guidelines say that commercial flags can be flown only on a building where there is one tenant in a building, as is the case with Cartier—they own all of the floors at 28 Newbury St. The Gensler architect said that the poles would be a dark bronze color to match the existing finish of the window components and the doors, and the flags would be red with the gold Cartier logo on them. The size of the flags woulds be similar to the flags and flagpoles at the end of the street. She added that they are seeking to add these flags to create more visibility for the Cartier brand along Newbury Street.

“I think that certainly the identification is very elegant and I do know that being a resident of Newbury Street, people ask us where Cartier is,” said BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor. She called the presentation “very tasteful,” and added that this “may help us see how flags could work on the street in different ways.”

Other Commissioners were not so fond of the flags. Commissioner John Christiansen said he thinks the flags are “excessive” because the store already has awnings identifying it.

“I would agree,” said Commissioner Pattio Quinn.

Connor responded by saying that there are very few single retailers on Newbury Street, so “this may be something to consider for an exception,” she said.

Christiansen said that maybe one flag instead of two would be better. Sue Prindle of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay agreed. “I’m concerned that they are big and that there are two of them,” she said. She told the architect that while she understands the necessity of symmetry on the building, maybe they could consider smaller flags.

“I think the flags are totally appropriate,” said Commissioner Jane Moss.

The Commission ultimately decided to approve the project as submitted, but Christiansen objected.

18 Newbury Street—Concepts

The building at 18 Newbury St. will be the home to the clothing store Concepts. A proposal for the storefront was previously heard by the BBAC, but the design was not approved. The design team came back this month with a new proposal for the facade, after being told to incorporate more of the historic fabric of the facade into the design. The design of the existing building has a golden theme, with golden cupolas, which the design team said they did not want to keep.

The team said that the used the existing fabric of the architecture to create the storefront. They wanted to “Stay contemporary; modern” while preserving the historical features of the building. They proposed a band on the front of the store that integrates geometrical shapes that are backlit to provide art deco detail. There will be a minimalist sign on the glass, and the appearance of the storefront is very sleek.

They said the design of the facade was influenced by other businesses around Newbury Street.

“The geometric shapes do not seem appropriate,” said Commissioner Robert Weintraub. He suggested something more linear as opposed to squares or triangles. “The design should mimic something on the facade.

“The shape can be revised,” the design team said.

Prindle suggested beefing up the design band, which might help it “relate slightly better to the rest of the building,” she said.

The Commission approved the proposal with the provisos that the banding be widened a few more inches, along with a couple other design changes.

Adding Antennas to Light Poles

Telecommunications service provider Extenet Systems, Inc., proposed replacing light poles and installing antennas at three different locations in the Back Bay: 239 Commonwealth Ave., 100 Beacon St., and 885 Boylston St. These have been proposed all over the city to help extend the range of cell phone service.

At 293 Comm Ave., Extenet is proposing a double acorn light, and the representative said that the company prefers the design with the antenna on top, as it is easier for future removal if technology changes. The other option has a base cabinet design as opposed to the antenna, but the representative said that they have received feedback from locations where these exist saying that people throw trash into the cabinet and it becomes an issue.

“We were assured that the equipment was going to get smaller,” BBAC Chair Kathleen Connor said. “We were told that more than one carrier can be put [on these units].” The end user for these particular antennas is T-Mobile. Connor said that they understand what the company is trying to do, “but we also have a responsibility to choose the best solution for visibility and accessibility,” she said.

“We can amend the engineering for the base cabinet,” the representative said, as there was a general consensus from the Commission that they would like to see that design rather than the antenna on top.

At 100 Beacon St., the existing light is pendant-style, so it will be replaced in-kind. This location was questioned by the Commission, because if it was placed across the street, it would be out of the Landmarked District and would not have to go before the Commission for approval. The same goes for the 885 Boylston St. location, which would be another double-acorn light.

The representative said that both of these locations would have to be investigated and analyzed to see if the technology would still work the way they want it to if they were moved across the street.

Sue Prindle said that there were a couple of issues that have come up in the past, such as light emission into people’s homes, and the possible infusion of extra space in the cabinet for other carriers to install their technology without having to take over more light poles.

The Commission approved these proposals separately. The one at 239 Commonwealth Ave. was approved with the cabinet base design with possible extra room for another carrier, adjustable lights with baffle on back so light would not intrude on people’s homes, consistent bowl height in design for what is there now, and change the company marker band to something that is embedded into the base and consistent with others, as it is a shiny metal band currently that is wrapped around the base. This location was fine, the Commission said, and told the applicant to send the rest of the details to staff. At 100 Beacon St. and 885 Boylston St., the same provisos as above apply, with the addition of exploring moving the equipment to the poles across the street instead so it is out of the district.

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